Image: Jan. 9: Tungurahua volcano erupts in the early hours.
QUITO, Ecuador — Ecuador's Tungurahua volcano is poised for a major eruption, a volcanologist said Wednesday. Authorities last week evacuated 10 villages from its western slopes as a precaution.
Patricia Mothes, a U.S. expert on volcanoes, said the 16,575-foot volcano, located 80 miles southeast of Quito, "is preparing to generate, in days or weeks, a great eruption."
She said that could mean pyroclastic flows — blasts of volcanic material "that descend at high speeds and burn everything in their way."
Tungurahua, which has been active since 1999, has been freeing a high level of energy since Dec. 22, Mothes told The Associated Press by telephone.
"We have indications that there may be important volumes of magma which would be liberated in an eruption," she said.
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REUTERS/Imelda Medina (MEXICO)